Will Democrats Ever Acknowledge Progress In Iraq?
By Mort Kondracke
It was simply ridiculous for Democrats to fight about race, but it's more serious that they won't disagree about Iraq.
None of the Democratic presidential candidates -- or Congressional leaders -- will acknowledge that the troop surge in Iraq creates the possibility that the United States could actually win the conflict and that their calls for hasty troop withdrawals may be misguided.
As Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) observed last week on the first anniversary of President Bush's surge announcement, if opponents of the surge had had their way, "Iraq today would be a country in chaos: a failed state in the heart of the Middle East, overrun by al-Qaida and Iran."
On the campaign trail, McCain added: "Al- Qaida would be proclaiming that it had defeated the United States in Iraq." He's right. A year ago, a civil war was raging and the U.S. clearly was losing. Now, it has a chance to succeed, a turnabout with profound strategic implications.
For sure, the surge is working militarily -- U.S. deaths are down 80 percent; civilian deaths, 75 percent; car bombs and suicide attacks, 60 percent. Al-Qaida terrorists are on the run. Iraqi security forces have expanded by 100,000 and are now in charge of half of Iraq's provinces.
Politically, there is progress, too, especially at the provincial level. Former Sunni insurgents are cooperating with the United States and Sunni politicians may rejoin the national government. Shiite militants have declared a cease-fire.
The civil war has largely stopped. No national oil revenue law has been passed, but oil revenues are being shared. And Iraq's parliament has passed a law allowing former Baath Party members to collect pensions and serve in the government.
It's not victory. Political progress is slow. But Iraq is heading in the right direction. U.S. forces might have to stay for 10 years more -- but, eventually, as peacekeepers, not combatants, as in Korea and Kosovo. Instead of suffering a huge strategic loss, the United States would have shown it has tenacity, altering its image in the world.
Democrats, however, insist on minimizing the success and advocating early timetables for full withdrawal of U.S. combat forces.